A veganish diet is the answer to that feeling of defeatism that comes from browsing #cleaneating posts. It’s a whole food diet with an attainable approach.
This attainability sets veganish eating apart from strict regimes and pointless “rules.”
There’s only one veganish rule, really: Stay Calm and Avoid Processed Food (and Most Animal Products).
In this article I feature 15 healthy, veganish family meals and created a PDF for the all-star recipes. If you’d like to get straight to the food stuff, click here.
What Is Veganish?
Simply, veganish is a plant-based, whole foods diet. It’s not about a lifestyle. The focus is on nutrition.
This diet is about harm reduction rather than diet “purity” and rigidity.
Veganish is taking steps towards dietary health rather than giant strides.
A veganish diet avoids processed foods and consumes cheap, nutrient-dense, whole foods, without twitting out about it.
That last part is really important.
Where’s The Beef?
95% of a veganish diet is plants and plant-based protein. But. A veganish diet doesn’t avoid aaaaalllll animal products.
I said what I said.
I’m not out here eating steaks, fish, chicken, or dairy milk/yogurt. But my family eats eggs and cheese. I bake with butter.
When looking at a nutrition label, I care much more about the presence of macronutrients than that of honey. I care more about the absence of preservatives than I do that of gelatin.
That little sticker that says, “made in the same space that processes eggs or dairy?” It doesn’t mean a thing to me.
What About Eating Out?
When eating out, veganish becomes vegetarianism.
There can be pressure and social anxiety centered around eating outside one’s home; there’s no reason to embrace a diet to such an extent that it makes an enjoyable activity uncomfortable.
Ditching Processed Food
Avoiding processed foods is a huge tenet of a veganish diet.
Processed foods should be avoided. Period. They’re full of artificial ingredients that make us sick.
And avoiding processed food is also an easy way to avoid animal products.
Why Veganish? (As Opposed to Veganism or Vegetarianism)
Because eating healthy is hard enough, and being a strict vegan sounds restrictive and exhausting (uh, cuz it is, fight me).
Being veganish is simply a way to eat, not meant to dictate other aspects of life. Personally, I don’t think the same can be said of veganism.
If I were “just” a vegetarian, I’d eat too much dairy. And, uh, that ish is bad for us.
Further, transitioning from an omnivore or vegetarian diet to a veganish one is easier than going full vegan. It’s even easier to go full vegan after eating veganish.
Baby steps, people. Baby steps.
Better For Us
The reasons to eat a veganish rather than omnivore diet are depressing and scary. They involve the disgusting and inefficient nature of agribusiness and contamination of the general animal protein supply.
The preservatives in processed food cause us to gain weight and could give us cancer.
Better For Our Kids
There is strong evidence that processed foods contain ingredients that can affect children’s mood and behavior.
We’ve all seen the effects of a sugar rush and subsequent crash in our children (and ourselves, let’s be honest).
But treats are “allowed!”
A veganish diet isn’t anti-cookie, it’s anti-Chips Ahoy. It’s not anti-granola bar, it’s anti-Nature Valley. It’s not anti-cake, it’s anti-Duncan Hines.
Better For The Planet
The agriculture industry, dispersion of food vs. land, and cow farts (seriously) are detrimental to our ecosystem.
How To Switch Family to Veganish Meals
The beauty of a veganish diet is its gradual nature. There’s no reason to go from frozen pizzas to bean sprouts.
Keep eating pizza! Grocery stores have vegan options (or make your own).
If your family traditionally eats “meat and potatoes” meals, keep doing that! Just replace the real meat with a fake meat equivalent.
Once everyone is comfortable with processed food vegan replacements, start experimenting with more “out there” plant-based food and recipes. Throw some tempeh in the rotation, make your own cashew cheese.
Switch processed food out slowly
No need to rush here, either. I’m not asking you to throw out all the processed foods in your pantry.
But I am asking you not to replace them when they’re gone.
Almost any store-bought processed food can be duplicated at home. However. You’ll find that not all dupes are worth the time and effort.
Sure, you could make your own pop tarts at home, but you’ll soon grow tired of all that mess. Chocolate chip cookies, though, are much easier.
Soon you’ll have an efficient and steady rotation of homemade treats.
Have fun with themes! (Taco Tuesday, etc)
Show your family how versatile a veganish diet can be with themes!
Traditional “themed” foods are way easy to make veganish. Love Taco Tuesday? Replace ground beef with ground soy protein crumbles.
Same with Italian! All kinds of mock meats can be used to replace animal protein in pasta dishes.
Many traditional Asian meals are plant-based, too (or easy to make so).
Hide the veggies
It might not be the most honest approach. But you can add more vegetables to your family’s diet, secretly.
Like a ninja.
Serve spinach smoothies for breakfast, but with sweet tropical fruit (to mask the flavor) and blueberries (to hide the green).
Check out this article for other sneaky vegetable tips.
Eat the veggies and fruits (in front of your children)
I realized something a few weeks ago: my kids rarely see me snack on fruits and vegetables.
And I’ve been veganish for a decade.
Sure, they’ve seen me eat salads at lunch and veggies at dinner, but I rarely sit down with raw carrots and hummus or grab a banana in the middle of the afternoon.
Since then, I’ve made a more conscious effort to eat fruit and vegetables outside of mealtimes, in front of my kids.
Involve the whole family
By involving the whole family, you’re inviting them to a veganish diet, not hoisting it on them.
Make and try new recipes, as a family (start with dessert).
Create Family Veganish Cookoff Challenges: split into teams and see who best “veganish-izes” traditional animal product dishes.
If it’s age-appropriate and they’re interested, invite your family to watch some documentaries about the perils of food production.
Outsmart Decision Fatigue
Changing lifestyles, particularly the way one eats, is hard enough. And decision fatigue makes it harder.
Decision fatigue is the unique brain fog and lethargy caused by making too many decisions. Coined by social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, decision fatigue has been extensively studied.
Decision fatigue is real and debilitating.
Tackle decision fatigue offensively and slash the number of decisions that need to be made, especially when it comes to meals, eating, and food preparation.
Eat approximately three dozen meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) in steady, planned rotation; make the same snacks every week. You can’t agonize over what to eat if there aren’t that many choices.
Fifteen Healthy Veganish Meals For Kids
- Soups and salad (see PDF)
- Banana and nut butter roll-ups
- Avocado toast
- Pita bread/bagel/English muffin/tortilla pizzas
- Rice pudding (see PDF)
- Cold grain salads
- Shepherd's pie (see PDF)
- Sheet pan dinners
- Cauliflower mac and cheese
- Potato-carrot bake (see PDF)
- White bean spinach quesadillas (see PDF)
- Salad, baked potato, or nacho bar
- Easy blender corn pudding
- Cheeseburger Dip (see PDF)
Alright, let’s get to the exciting stuff! Food.
These fifteen healthy veganish family meals are quick to get on the table.
Again, habit change is hard, and I don’t want to make anything harder.
The ingredients in these meals are easy to find and inexpensive. None of the meals are so exotic as to raise the traditional omnivore’s eyebrow.
Breakfast is hands down the easiest meal to make veganish.
There are tons of breakfast mock meat options, too.
More of a cereal person? Cool, have your cereal with non-dairy milk.
Soups and salad (see PDF)
There are soooo many ways to make these dishes veganish. Salads, obviously. Check out the PDF for some of my favorite veganish soups.
Banana and nut butter roll-ups
Spread a whole wheat tortilla with nut butter, roll it around a banana, and cut in to coins.
Pita bread/bagel/English muffin/tortilla pizzas
Use non-dairy or traditional cheese, I don’t really care.
Rice pudding (see PDF)
Slightly sweet and full of protein, my preschoolers love this lunch.
Cold grain salads
Leftover cooked quinoa or couscous? Make a quick and hearty cold grain salad.
Shepherd’s pie (see PDF)
Sheet pan dinners
Toss some veggies with oil and seasonings, tofu with a panko bread crumb mixture, roast on baking sheets, and call it a day.
Potato-carrot bake (see PDF)
A fun little casserole with a cracker crust.
What a versatile dish! Casseroles of all stripes can be made veganish, with fake ground beef, or just stuffed with grains, vegetables, and pasta.
White bean spinach quesadillas (see PDF)
So much protein, done in thirty minutes.
Salad, baked potato, or nacho bar
Another versatile option (use veggies! or grains! clean out the fridge of leftovers!), and a fun way to use toppings. The cauliflower “cheese” sauce from the mac and cheese recipe is great on baked potatoes or nachos.
Cheeseburger Dip (see PDF)
Ok, this recipe isn’t healthy. But I love it.
Bonus: Veganish Snacks
These are some of my favorite veganish snacks.
- No bake granola bars
- Nuts and seeds
- Parmesan garlic hummus
- Healthyish banana chocolate chip cookies
- Frozen edamame
- Air popped popcorn
A veganish diet is a compromise between health and dogma.
The three tenets of a veganish diet changed my life.
Avoiding processed food and most animal proteins yielded a variety of health benefits. Focusing on the food rather than a lifestyle helped me get out of my own head when it comes to food. And purposely lessening decision fatigue freed up the mental space needed for habit change (and more!).
Do you have any plant-based meals in your rotation? Let me know in the comments.